Gatchalian urges DepEd to implement disaster response plans, use P2.1 billion fund to fix damaged schools

Published January 16, 2020, 12:00 AM

by manilabulletin_admin

By Hanah Torregoza

The Department of Education (DepEd) should have its emergency response plans ready in case Taal Volcano displays an “explosive eruption” and use its P2.1 billion quick response fund to repair damaged school buildings.

Sen. Sherwin Gatchalian (Senate of the Philippines / MANILA BULLETIN FILE PHOTO)
Sen. Sherwin Gatchalian (Senate of the Philippines / MANILA BULLETIN FILE PHOTO)

Sen. Sherwin Gatchalian, chair of the Senate committee on basic education, arts, and culture, said this as he urged the agency to put their disaster response plans in place for the safety of students and schools, particularly in the most vulnerable areas.

Alert Level 4 remains hoisted over Taal Volcano, which means that a hazardous explosive eruption is imminent within hours to days. Gatchalian said in view of this, government agencies should brace for the worst-case scenario even as the authorities are still grappling with relief and rescue efforts in provinces affected by the eruption.

“Hindi pa lumilipas ang pinakamalalang maaaring mangyari sa pag-alboroto ng Bulkang Taal, kaya dapat nating paghandaan ang maaaring maging epekto ng isang malaking pagsabog (The worst eruption has not yet occurred, so we need to be prepared for any eventuality),” Gatchalian said.

“Kung sakaling magkaroon ng malaking pagsabog at lumala ang pag-ulan ng abo, mahalagang may plano tayo kung paano natin mabilis na malilinis ang mga paaralan upang mapangalagaan ang kalusugan ng mga guro at mag-aaral, lalo na kapag muling nagbukas na ang klase (In case there is a major eruption and the ash fall worsens, it’s important that we have plans on how we can quickly clean up schools to safeguard the health of teachers and students, particularly when school opens).”

In a health advisory, the Department of Health (DOH) warned that volcanic ash can trigger eye, nose, and throat irritations, breathing problems, and coughing, among others.

The Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology (Phivolcs) also reported that 566 volcanic earthquakes have been recorded in Taal region as of 8 a.m. on Jan 16. It warned of high risks of pyroclastic density currents and volcanic tsunami within the 14-kilometer radius from Taal Volcano’s main crater.

In its Jan. 16 Education Cluster Report, the DepEd said over seven million learners in 58 divisions and more than 7,500 schools have been affected by the eruption.

Gatchalian said schools should closely coordinate with their local governments as they tend to be the first responders in times of calamity.

If necessary, the lawmaker said DepEd should quickly tap into its P2.1-billion quick response fund to address damage to schools.

“Sa panahon ng mga sakuna, mahalaga ang papel ng ating kahandaan upang manatiling ligtas ang ating mga mag-aaral at hindi ma-antala ng matagal ang pagkatuto nila (During calamities, disaster preparedness is important to ensure that our students are safe and their studies are not hampered for long),” he said.